05 October 2015

Mobile kindergartens – best learning place for herders’ children

Otgonsuren drawing with colored pencils
©UNICEF Mongolia/2015/Tsendsuren Tumee
“My favorite toy is a car!” cheerfully says 4 year-old Otgonsuren.  “We have so many toys to play with, but I like painting and drawing the most”. Taking a pencil from stack of colored pencils, he starts drawing. Otgonsuren started kindergarten only this summer, and he has been enjoying the new experience. “I really like my kindergarten” he says.

He lives with his parents, two older brothers and a sister in a “ger”, Mongolian traditional housing, in Shivee village in Khuvsgul province, located some 60 km away from the province center. Shivee village is home to 304 households, mostly herders, who are living a nomadic lifestyle.

In summer, the nomadic families move from the village center to find better pasture land for their livestock. Far away from the center, there was no access to kindergarten for their children. However, this year Otgonsuren was able to go the mobile “ger” kindergarten in Shivee village. There are 45 children from nomadic families studying at the mobile kindergarten.

Otgonsuren’s mother Jargal explains “When we were young, there was no such thing as mobile kindergartens. Even my older children didn’t go to kindergarten. So when they started school, they had a hard time adjusting to new environment and people”.

Finding a solution

Kindergarten teacher Bolor-Erdene telling a tale with puppets to children
©UNICEF Mongolia/2015/Tsendsuren Tumee
The mobile-ger-kindergartens offer the best learning place for children in families living far from the center. Shivee village authorities decided to establish mobile ger kindergartens in 2012 in order to bring early childhood education services closer to nomadic families. However, the local government had to rent gers and they did not have enough resources to fully furnish the kindergarten. 
 
Last year UNICEF Mongolia with the financial and technical assistance of the Government of Monaco, donated two fully furnished gers with toys, furniture and learning materials to Shivee village. Now surrounded by colorful furniture, gers look no different than ordinary kindergarten.

These mobile-ger-kindergartens are helping develop children’s learning, social skills and physical growth. “Children even learn good behaviors like washing their hands with soap, using improved latrines and throwing their garbage to waste bins” explains Bolor-Erdene enthusiastically.  Bolor-Erdene is a full time kindergarten teacher in the village center. But during summer, she also works in the mobile ger kindergarten.

Mobile-ger-kindergartens have also helped herders boost their productivity by allowing them focus on their animal husbandry. “Summer is busy time for herders. We need to work extra hard in preparation for the cold winter ahead. Knowing that our son is safe at the kindergarten, learning new things and making friends, we feel so happy and do our work without any concern” says Jargal.

Bringing kindergarten closer to nomadic families

Children having a lunch outside the mobile kindergarten
©UNICEF Mongolia/2015/Tsendsuren Tumee
The decision to run summer kindergartens have received very positive feedback by the community. “It was an important decision we made for the future of our community. Access to early childhood education services is essential for these children not only to learn and make friends, but also learn good values such as sharing and helping each other” says Battsogt, the head of village citizens’ representatives.

UNICEF Mongolia’s Early Childhood Development Officer Tsendsuren Tumee explains that the effort to bring early childhood education for every child has brought significant results.

“Since 2012 more than 2600 children have attended ger kindergartens in Khuvsgul province established with the support of UNICEF and its partners. Only this year we established 10 more ger-kindergartens in the area with the help of the Government of Monaco providing nearly 280 children aged 2-5 with early childhood education programs and services” Tsendsuren says. “Access to early childhood has helped many children to develop to their full potential and perform better at schools”.

“My son will be six soon and start school. When that time comes, I’m confident that things he learned in kindergarten will help him a lot” says Jargal.

We believe so, too!

Author:
Enkhzul Altangerel, Digital Communication Consultant and Tsendsuren Tumee, Early Childhood Development Officer


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